PM calls on Poles to avoid "unnecessary anti-Semitic jokes"

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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday called on Poles to refrain from making anti-Semitic statements at a time when the country is under fire over a controversial Holocaust law.

The new law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich -- or other crimes against humanity and war crimes" and set off criticism from Israel, the United States and France.

"I would like to invite every one of you to contribute to positive thinking... to avoid anti-Semitic statements, because they are grist to the mill for our enemies, for our adversaries," Morawiecki said at a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Chelm.

"Let's avoid it like the plague, even the dumb, unnecessary jokes. Most importantly, let's all explain together how things really were."

Morawiecki's comments echo those of the influential head of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

"Today, the enemies of Poland, one can even say the Devil, are trying a very bad recipe... This sickness is anti-Semitism. We must reject it resolutely," Kaczynski said on Saturday.

Israel this month said it had observed a "wave of anti-Semitic statements" on the internet in Poland, and even in the country's mainstream media.

A recent commentator on the state-run TVP station had made the ironic statement that "we could say these camps were neither German nor Polish but Jewish. Because who operated the crematoria? And who died there?"

Another commentator had sent out a tweet using an offensive term against Jews that translates to "greedy kike".

The main aim of the Holocaust law is to prevent people from erroneously describing Nazi German death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau as Polish, simply because they were set up on Polish soil.

Israel has expressed concern that the legislation could open the door to prosecuting Holocaust survivors for their testimony should it concern the involvement of individual Poles for allegedly killing or giving up Jews to the Germans.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens including three million Jews.